TORONTO (Reuters) - American swimmers finally made a splash in the Pan American Games pool on Thursday while the decision to have controversial hip hop artist Kanye West headline the closing ceremonies sparked outrage and took the focus off the athletes.
After a smooth start to the July 10-26 competition, which many consider Toronto’s audition for landing a Summer Olympics, Pan Am Games officials have come under fire for not going with a more Canadian lineup.
Since announcing on Wednesday that Grammy-winning West will be part of a lineup including U.S. rapper Pitbull and Canadian musician Serena Ryder, a number of online petitions have popped up demanding officials to reconsider.
It was also a controversial evening in the swimming pool where two gold medalist were disqualified for making illegal turns.
After out-duelling American Caitlin Leverenz to the wall in the 400 meter individual medley, 17-year-old Canadian Emily Overholt was left crushed when she was stripped of her medal for a non-simultaneous touch during the breaststroke.
A few minutes later it was Brazilian great Thiago Pereira, winner of a Pan Am record 21 swimming medals, who was denied another gold for an illegal touch in the men’s 400m IM, handing victory to team mate Brandonn Almeida.
With just two golds from the first two days of the swimming competition, the Americans finally flexed their muscles on Day Three, reaching the top of the podium in four of five finals.
Leverenz, Kelsi Worrell (women’s 100 butterfly), Giles Smith (men’s 100 butterfly) and the women’s 4x200 freestyle relay were all winners, with only Almeida preventing a U.S. golden sweep.
A productive night in the pool helped the United States close the gap on Canada at top of the medals table.
Through six days the United States has been unable to knock the hosts out of top spot.
Canada have 38 golds and 97 total medals, with the Americans on 34 gold and 96 medals overall.
There were no controversies in track cycling where Canada sped away with gold in both the men’s and women’s team sprint events.
Canada and the United States traded gold medals at the badminton hall with the Americans winning the mixed doubles and the hosts striking gold and silver in the women’s singles.
Kevin Cordon, Guatemala’s flag bearer at the 2012 London Olympics, successfully defended the men’s singles title he won in Guadalajara, beating Canada’s Andrew D‘Souza 2-0 to bring the badminton competition to a close.
Cuba struck double gold in men’s Greco-Roman wrestling, Mijain Lopez, Olympic champion in 2008 and 2012, winning in the 130kg weight class and Yasmany Lugo taking first in the 98kg division.
In the women’s singles tennis competition, Colombia’s Mariana Duque-Marino, ranked 89 in the world and a winner on the WTA Tour, claimed gold with a 6-4 6-4 win over Mexico’s Victoria Rodriguez.
Editing by Peter Rutherford